A New Year’s Eve Story

by Lynn Cannon

Midnight came and went across the globe like a breeze of wind we couldn’t see, rather we could feel the light crisp air on our cheeks. As a result, many senses were awakened that night. Especially for the small group of people, known as “River Rats”, in a town of Arizona. Though they may reside in many different cities and states, that doesn’t keep them from traveling some distance to come together every year to celebrate their holiday with a festive feast. As midnight struck on the Eve of New Year’s, I couldn’t help but watch with childlike wonderment at a house full of unique and interesting people. As we rang out the old and in with the New Year together…I reflected on this magical night full of food, laughter and most of all, good company.

With the ever changing world and unpredictable behavior of people, New Year’s Eve can be a joyous occasion that unfortunately does not always end with a safe goodnight. These River Rats know the true meaning of family, friendship and fun. Many of whom I have known since I was a child, and some I had just meet, were gracious enough to welcome us into their weekend summer homes with open arms, warm hugs and delicious food.

Every year this group celebrates a tradition known as “The Crawl”. These River Rats walk from one house to the next inside their gated community, making a stop at six houses along the way to have unique appetizers that are specific to the home owner, with the last house on the stop being the dessert house. This was my first year to celebrate New Year’s Eve with my family in what seemed like nearly a decade and I wanted to make the most of my experience. Having a passion for food, I decided that I would do a story about the night, talking with each home owner and finding out more about this curious ritual known as “The Crawl”, and perhaps get sneak samples of the food that would be presented for the night.

I started my investigation with my own mother and I was happily surprised to learn the idea behind this started seven years ago with her. I had asked “how did you guys come up with the idea for the crawl?” She stated “Well…it’s so dangerous being out in town on New Year’s. Too many drunk drivers on the road, just not worth it. This way we all stay safe inside our gate. We start out walking from one house to the next, so by the time you’re done you can just crawl home” she giggled.

let “The Crawl” begin

The first stop on this tasty walk takes us to the home of Mr. & Mrs. Tom Johnson. They are among the few that have known me since I was a small child. Their warm faces are always filled with friendly smiles and laughter in their voices.

While the crowd gathered at our first stop I was able to sample the delicious spread.

Mr. Johnson has prepared warm homemade tortilla chips with a sprinkle of garlic salt and a flavorful queso, while Mrs. Johnson has prepared a homemade cheese ball unique with a combination of flavors served with Triscuit crackers.

A fish Story

Our second stop along the route leads to the home of Mr. & Mrs. Chris McClary with co-hosts Mr. and Mrs. Mike Johnston. Now this is where our night got a little fishy….with homemade sushi that is!

First of all let me just say this fun and outgoing couple takes “homemade sushi” to the next level. That is to say that they enjoy going out deep sea fishing and letting the sea decide their choice of the freshest select fish. Which brings us to the most unlikely fisherman of them all..Mrs. McClary who stands at approximately 5’3 maybe 5’4 and weights an estimated 120lbs – 125lbs. reeled in the biggest fish of the day on December 16, 2017 at a whopping 167.5lbs. she brought in this gorgeous Tuna herself. Take that Chicken of the Sea! You can read the article in the link attached.

As Mrs. McClary prepares Wahoo with a slightly spicy curry sauce, she explains the “how to’s” when bringing home the big catch! 

Wahoo with Curry Sauce

Mr. McClary is busy preparing the variety of sushi rolls for the evening…

Here we have California Rolls served along side…

Spicy Tuna Rolls.

Have you ever had smoked Tuna? Or Tuna jerky I have, if you didn’t know it was Tuna, you’d never guess it was fish.

Mr. McClary also introduced us to Poke. Which can only be described as a Hawaiian style Tuna Sushi salad.

Time to Pig out!

If tortilla chips and queso, cheese ball with crackers, followed by homemade sushi hasn’t already made you hungry then get ready to crawl to our third stop. Say hello to Mr. & Mrs. Matthew Evangelista. Another fun couple, Mrs. Evangelista is always full of smiles and comedy. Mr. Evangelista very welcoming and a little more on the quiet side, but still as nice as can be, have prepared tasty pulled pork sliders.

Here we see Mrs. Evangelista pulling the pork apart. As a result of eight simmering hours in the slow cooker has made this pulled pork dripping with savory juices just slide right off the bone. This pork beaming with a mixture of flavors of salt and barbeque complements the Hawaiian Sweet Rolls these little sliders were served on.

While enjoying my finger licking juicy sandwich, Mrs. Evangelista works in the wine industry handling the packing such as labels, corks, wax tops right down to the very font, served me a glass of Herman Story Tomboy Viognier Roussanne. This wine can not be purchased in stores, but you can visit wineries in the Santa Barbara, California area or purchase online . It’s cool and fresh but still knows how to shimmy. Scents of warm tangerine, White Cherry Icee, pressed wintergreen and creamsicle center. The palate is pure elixir of creme caramel, cinnamon dust and white currant with an almost chilly acidity.

these biscuits aren’t burnin’

Next we crawled around the corner to our fourth stop, Mr. & Mrs. McCarthy. I just meet this couple for the first time tonight. They introduced Briquette Biscuits.This was enjoyed by all and got rave reviews, especially by the men. This would make a great Super Bowl snack idea.

the party house

As the night rolls on, so did the rest of the party down to road for Street Tacos and Jell-O Shots at our fifth stop. The home of the Mr. & Mrs. Todd Miller and their daughter Carol Ann. Mrs. Miller is actually my Aunt Johna. Let me see…how do you describe by far one of the most spontaneous women that truly lives every single moment of her life to fullest? She has a unique quality about her and a passion for life and doesn’t know a stranger, fore she is every ones friend.

My Uncle Todd, if you like toys…he probably has it. From the most outlandish remote control boats to the fastest remote control cars and skilled in making some never seen before homemade boomerangs that catches attention from all over. Carol Ann is a recent college graduate in Cosmetology, quite the talented make-up artist. You should see her Halloween make-up. She’s destine for Hollywood theatrics!

The only proper way to eat a street taco is with only the finest quality ingredients. These delightful little street eats can be made or brought down in a hard way depending on the salsa. However, I’m happy to say these street tacos were amazing! The Millers have always been creative in their projects, which has made this home the party house! Tasty tacos combined with rum Jell-O shots was the tipsy turning point of the night. Every one was laughing and shootin’em down!

it’s the final countdown

We’re nearing the final count down as we begin to crawl onto our last house of the night. Finally, the dessert house! I have been waiting ever so patiently like a kid anticipating Christmas morning along with the rest of the group for this final stop. You’ll understand why, allow me to introduce you to Mrs. Jon Schuler, aka my mom. A classy lady with a sense of humor and a warm and loving heart. I cherish my mom, as I know she did hers. My mom, Cora, has taught my bother and I that family is the only thing in the world that truly matters, hence “The family that plays together, stays together.”

As if two homemade cherry cheese cakes weren’t enough she out did herself with a divine velvety chocolate cheese cake with a hint of espresso powder that was so decadent you would think this cheese cake was smiled upon by the chocolate dessert Gods and topped it off with a raspberry coulis sauce to savor, all of which of course she made from scratch. Store bought is what?

a new years eve story

While we finished every savory bite of our desserts the clock was nearing midnight. We watch the ball drop in Time Square and counted down the final moments of 2017. Some probably counted down an ending thankful to have survived the holiday season, some probably might have counted down to a beginning to something new and exciting with hope for the year coming. In conclusion, no matter which way you brought in the year, I hope you did it with full bellies, smiles, and finally a safe crawl home.
Finally I hope you enjoyed this months featured article. Do to this article, recipes for some of these dishes will be posted this week. Furthermore, if you want to be the first to be notified for these recipes subscribe to my blog and you will receive automatic emails.

Thank you and Happy New Year from,

Sweet Sugar & Spice

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